Audiologist vs. Dispensers; What’s the difference?

It might seem like we’re all the same, but there are significant differences between audiologists and hearing aid dispensers. You may have questions about what each job entails and how they differ from one another. 

Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know:

An audiologist is a licensed healthcare professional who diagnoses hearing loss, treats it, and provides rehabilitation services for those with hearing loss. Audiologists are also trained in counseling on hearing protection and prevention of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

A hearing aid dispenser works with patients with mild to moderate hearing loss to select a hearing aid that best suits their needs. Hearing aid dispensers do not diagnose or treat hearing loss or other medical conditions. However, they can advise on selecting the best hearing aid for your needs.

Critical differences between audiologists and hearing aid dispensers.

Length of time studying

Hearing aid dispensers only need to complete an accredited program, while audiologists are required to have a doctoral degree. Audiologists also have more training in evaluating and treating hearing loss — typically four years of undergraduate study and four years of graduate school plus additional post-graduate education.

State vs national accreditation

Hearing aid dispensers must be licensed by the state where they practice, just as audiologists are. However, there is no national certification for hearing aid dispensers and no uniformity among states’ requirements for licensing. That means if a hearing aid dispenser wants to move out of state and continue practicing, they must become licensed in their new home state.

Once you are an audiologist however, you are permitted to practice anywhere in the United States. To qualify to be an audiologist anywhere in the states however, an applicant must have at least a master’s degree in audiology from an accredited college or university and complete a clinical internship. They must also pass a national certification examination administered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

The range of services offered

A hearing aid dispenser does not have substantial training in hearing sciences and may not always have the background to treat those with more complex hearing problems or those with medically-based hearing loss.

An audiologist is educated to focus on your total hearing health, regardless of how it can be treated or managed. In contrast, a hearing instrument specialist is in the specialized business of selling hearing aids to manage hearing loss.

We recommend an audiologist, of course.

Choosing an audiologist to treat your hearing loss is a big decision. A good audiologist will know how to use all available treatment options, from hearing aids to cochlear implants. They’ll be able to explain which treatment is best for you and your situation and guide you through getting that treatment. The right choice can mean the difference between living a life without hearing loss and living a life with it.

However, doing your research is still recommended. Not all audiologists are excellent hearing professionals and some hearing aid dispensers go above and beyond their remit. Generally speaking however, an audiologist is more likely to have the knowledge and expertise you need for successful hearing treatment.

We’ve provided timely and convenient at-home hearing treatment to New Jersey and the five boroughs of NYC for many years. Please make an appointment today or learn more about our home hearing tests by contacting us. 

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